Emmanuel Katongole

Location map of Burkina Faso Equirectangular p...

Location map of Burkina Faso Equirectangular projection. Strechted by 102%. Geographic limits of the map: * N: 15.5° N * S: 9° N * W: 6° W * E: 3° E Made with Natural Earth. Free vector and raster map data @ naturalearthdata.com. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m reading a book by African ethicist Emmanuel Katongole in which he says this about Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of the country he named Burkina Faso, “land of incorruptible.”

In the five years of Sankara’s leadership, through agricultural reforms and mobilization of the population, his country achieved food self-sufficiency, which shows that Sankara’s ‘madness’ was quite sane indeed. Inventing the future requires the audacity to live in the present with energy and visions drawn from the future.

To get a better sense for what this is saying, watch the below video. Food itself becomes a symbol of imperialism in Africa that Sankara and people like him have tried to overcome.

Katongole’s overall point is not specifically about Sankara but about the role of the church as a proclaimer of God’s story that gives imagination and vision and courage to change the terrible heinous narratives that have been lived out in places like Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Upper Volta (later named Burkina Faso). Katongole speaks of the need for lament, memory, story, community of memory, anticipation of a new creation as elements of what the church can do to make a difference in the climate of a country where poverty and oppression exists.

Hole in our gospel

The hole in our gospel.
Richard Stearns. Thomas Nelson.

2010 ECPA Christian Book of the Year Award

CEO of World Vision says Christians have a huge hole in their lives.

The hole is an emptiness that comes from rich followers of Jesus ignoring the plight of the poor locally and globally.

Stearns details his own journey toward filling this hole by becoming aware of the world and the teachings of Jesus to serve the poor. The former head of Parker Bros. and Lenox Inc. left the for profit business world to run a not-for-profit that helps feed, clothe, and educate children worldwide.

Says Americans must highly engage lives, money, and talent in fighting the “horsemen of the apocalypse”: hunger, disease, exploitation, armed conflict. Unlike many Evangelicals, Stearns believes poverty is explained by something more complex than choices. He says systemic injustice, deficit of education and knowledge also lead to poverty, and lifting cultures from these injustices requires a multi-pronged approach, such as Millennium Development Goals, advocated by UNICEF, Bill Gates, Jeffery D. Sachs, and Bono.

I would inject here, however, that William Easterly’s book, White Man’s Burden, should be read and digested along with the discussion of Millennium Goals and Jeffery’s Sachs’s book, The End of Poverty. Easterly’s work challenges he “planners” who think they can develop huge world goals and ignore the local “on the ground” element of culture and micro-economies within countries and regions.

Back to Stearns’s book: It’s an accessible book that will make it in the hands of Evangelical Christians who may not pick up one of the many ABA books on the world hunger, water, malaria, and AIDS crisis. This is a magnum opus for the leader of the most recognized aid organizations in the world.

The writing style is both passionate and motivating, and readers of Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, N.T. Wright will find Stearns synthesizing thought from these theologians as well as economists and missionaries. The book is biographical, motivational, journalistic, but in trying to be all those things, the impact can be less forceful than a single genre approach.

But for a leader of an international organization, the book is surprisingly no holds barred with an edge of prophetic voice in the wilderness, crying out to rich Americans, “Repent and help your world neighbors.”

At the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this year the book and small group guides were being passed out, so I asked for 8 of them, so we’ll be ready to provide this resource to small groups at Garnett Church whenever a group is ready to work through the study. In fact, I’d like for one group to go for it and “pilot” the study and lead the other groups in doing the book and activities. Let me know if you’d like to do that in your group.

How to pack a Water4.org well drilling kit

Water4.org is revolutionizing water well drilling by producing human-powered tools where no electricity or heavy equipment is available, to countries worldwide. We are taking a kit like the one being packed here to Uganda.

Thank you to Steve Stewart who has engineered these parts, to Pumps of Oklahoma and Water4.org. Thanks also to Jeff and Jeffery Deavenport for helping pack up the kit in seven duffle bags. Thanks to Chris Fields for providing the duffles and to the Garnett Church of Christ for donating money for this kit.

Drilling with these tools costs a fraction of cost of a drilling rig and gets the community involved in sustainable development, drilling for their own water. Clean water is the first building block of health. A third of the world does not have clean water. Well water is one of the best methods for getting naturally filtered water to communities.

Pantry and Prayer

Garnett is a Tulsa Food Bank distribution point. Today we’ll give sacks of groceries to about thirty families from our community.

We pray with each person who walks through the door. We opened up a hallway from the pantry to the prayer center and after inviting each person into the living room of the prayer center, we ask them if they have something specific they’d like to pray for, then we pray for them by name.

Usually more than half who come are Spanish speakers. I’m slowly learning a few words. The Fire Station across the street has asked our Bi-lingual school to staff and teach a Spanish class for 30 firefighters. We’re raising $1,200 to do that. In the meantime, we have Hispanic people come into Garnett food pantry, into our services.

Last night we had a Spanish speaker ask if we teach English classes. One of our shepherds, Dale Brown, did very well to speak what he knew and communicate with Alejandro that we are planning to soon teach English classes, taught by the Union school district here in our facility.

When someone comes to us, we immediately ask how we can help each other. I need to learn Spanish. The more we mingle, the more we’re going to learn from each other. And that’s really the first step. Churches talk about ministering to Hispanics and sometimes it ends up that a Spanish ministry operates on the other side of the building. We do have a Spanish speaking church called Redemptive Word meeting here, but that is not the totality of our interaction with Hispanic people in our neighborhood.

An important principle we operate on, and one of our shepherds, Robert Garland, reminded me of this recently, is that we do not look at the community as “needy” and design handout programs but look at the community as an asset and for the potential God can bring out in people. For example, in a few minutes, I’ll walk over to the pantry and greet our guests and ask if someone can help me translate Spanish. Sometimes it’s a little boy but most often it’s Trinnie Trijillo, a grandmotherly lady who comes to get clothes for her neighbors and grandchildren. She is bilingual and seems very pleased to be called out to serve while she is here on Thursdays.

Poverty scared his pants off

Sauti and pantsRobert Hamm is one of the most Christ-like persons I know. He was my preacher when I was a kid. He modeled over and over how to love God and others in our little church in Dewey, Oklahoma.

So I was pleased when he came to visit us in Uganda a few years ago. Robert and his wife, Loretta, visited the village churches we worked with and showed much love and goodness to many families in the villages, including our friends Cathy and Wako Wilson, Moses and Zipora Kirya, and a man named Sauti.

When Robert saw Sauti’s shredded pants dangling from his waist, he decided to give the man a pair of pants right then and there. Was there a market close by? No. We were nearly two hours into the bush and had driven the last hour on dirt roads.

“I’ll bring him a pair another day,” I said, brushing off his suggestion. But Robert insisted.

Robert is a compassionate and kind man. Robert would give you the shirt off his back . . . or his pants. At first I thought Robert was kidding when he suggested going to the pickup, slipping off his trousers, and giving them to Sauti. My thoughts bounced around, wondering whether Robert was wearing briefs or boxers.

Did he remember that we drove two hours out here, and that driving in one’s underwear tends to make two-hour trips seem like ten hours?

He went to the truck and took off his trousers and handed them out the window to me. He stayed in the truck until we left a few minutes later, and as we drove off, Sauti was grinning, a proud owner of Robert’s breeches.

The thirty onlookers were as amazed as I was, that a respected elder American man such as Robert would serve a poor village man by giving him his pants on the spot.

Ten years from now, someone will ask Sauti, “Remember that white man who left here in his drawers because he gave you his pants? Where are those pants anyway? What? Those torn up pants are the ones he gave you?!”

Then Sauti might say, “The pants didn’t last, but I’ll never forget what Robert did for me that day . . . that will last forever.”

By Greg Taylor Posted in poverty